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The Women of La Place des Fêtes


In the heart of working-class Paris, four remarkable women from diverse backgrounds met, each with a unique life story marked by displacement, determination, and the challenges of motherhood. Their encounter, sparked by a neighborhood exchange market, led to a powerful project weaving their narratives together. Supported by the Nuit Cheloue company, they transformed these stories into a choral work, sharing it at the Institute alongside musician Csaba Palotaï.

Four women, four different lifelines, and their encounter in one of the busiest, most bustling squares of working-class Paris. All have arrived here having had to leave behind family, children, homes.  

Yoko fled the strictures of corporate life in Japan, Latifa-Aline was dispatched from France to her paternal family in Algeria as the war was brought to an uneasy end then spent the best part of her adult life reclaiming her right to a decent life in France for herself and her children. Lucille left her rural French upbringing behind in those same years and found herself an exile in the wake of May 68, while Juliana is the most recent arrival, after a journey that took her from the Ivory Coast across the Sahara to Tunisia and over the Mediterranean to Lampedusa and then on.  

They met thanks to an exchange market, a neighbourhood initiative to pass on no-longer needed possessions. They ended up exchanging much more than household goods, and so was born the project of weaving their stories together of displacement, of determination, of grief, and the way their sense of family and belonging has changed in the process. Each story has its own arc, all traverse the violence of domestic life, and the hope of raising their children in peace. Together they compose a testimony to a woman’s life in the second half of the twentieth century.  

With the support of the Nuit Cheloue company, they brought this choral work to the Institute for an evening accompanied by the musician Csaba Palotaï where they were joined by an audience of people from their own neighbourhood and others also involved in community writing projects. It was a moving occasion, a journey between one of the highest points in the city and the banks of the rive gauche. It was a lesson in connection.